By Anna Martinez

Salena Guipzot is a barrio-grown Latina who is teaching young women of color how to navigate positions of power. 

Guipzot does not drive from the north to the barrio every morning. Her home is the barrio. In her spare time, she is not seeking out communities to serve because she is part of the community she serves. She shops in the barrio, gathers in the barrio and is helping rebuild the barrio. 

Guipzot is advocating for Latina women to run the spaces intended for Latina women because they are the ones with the experience to do so. 

As a young Latina woman, Guipzot went from being homeless to living in one of the whitest cities in the world, then to navigating the white-male world of business to finally creating a place of liberation for her people. 

My people are the ones with “ganas to live,” said Guipzot.

She continued explaining that they are the ones most deserving of this knowledge she has to offer because they have the most to gain from it. 

Guipzot is the founder and board chair of The Boardroom Project, this organization is developing a pipeline of strong women in business and to be in boardrooms. This allows her to be in decision-making meetings while also being on the ground working. She can work with youth, see their needs and create changes immediately. 

Because Guipzot does not answer to any white man she has the liberty to be intentional about her organization’s mission. No white man is giving her grants and asking her to change her program, Guipzot is making decisions from the ground up.  

Guipzot’s day is filled with emails, webinars and zoom meetings. In the morning she is running the business side of her organization but in the afternoon she is spending time with her community’s youth. 

This means that as a leader Guipzot is completely in tune with what her community needs. Not only does she have her lived experience, but she also has the time spent connecting with the young women of color she is serving. In addition, she says, “I am a product of the barrio so I can cross multiple worlds.” Not only is she in her community, but she also brings her community’s voice to places of power. They work from the community up. 

In San Antonio we are “majority Hispanic but we have no power, the white man funds everything north to us” said Guipzot. “We can’t even access these spaces even though they are meant for us,” when there are white women in power, said Guipzot  about organizations meant to help young women of color. 

Guipzot  Created her system because nothing else fits our community, most institutions were not designed with our community in mind. 

But she reminds us that “we are still behind the times” and “you are going to be the first in these spaces.” 

Guipzot’s greatest piece of advice is to not ask for permission. Latina women need to be at the table and they need to be the voice of our community. Our experiences should inform the spaces built for us.

Featured image courtesy of Salena Guipzot.

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